Monday, October 24, 2016

October TV brown-out!

My media consumption was at an absolute maximum this month, as I had the pleasure of watching Luke Cage, and starting The Get Down, two very different shows with a whole lotta brothas and sistas and chicas. There are no blatant spoilers here, and any info is revealed in the first episode of either show.

Love the cast of Luke Cage.
The first season of Luke Cage was a great pro-black experience, and you see that first and foremost in the language and music. While The Wire (HBO) still holds the crown for most authentic dialogue, Cage has some points. There's street talk for sure--they are in Harlem--but that's not the only kind of voice you hear. Luke actively discourages the use of the n-word by calling it out every time, and is very less-than-smooth with the ladies. You have to look pretty hard to find an uneducated thug or smooth-talking archetype in this show.

Another favorite thing about the show is the music. One of the main locations is a nightclub, and most of the episodes give us a chance to see some really great funk, jazz and hiphop artists perform as we get into the mind or a witness a key conversation of the antagonist, who owns the nightclub.

My last point is about how strong the women are in Luke Cage. While Cage himself can certainly punch through walls, the strongest and most vicious characters are all female, and they're very convincing. Mariah Dillard has a dark side that's quite scary. This strikes me because I've never seen the actress Alfre Woodard in anything but lighthearted comedies and dramas, but I certainly believe her. In Luke Cage, she's trying to make Harlem a better place through politics, has to shed her family's gangster image. The Dillards run shit in Harlem, but outsiders wouldn't see that as something to respect.

If you're also familiar with the show Jessica Jones (Netflix), or at least know the actress Krysten Ritter, it's hard to make her punching through walls and flipping over men twice her size look good; and it doesn't. I really enjoyed that show, but some of her "strong" moments were entirely unconvincing to me. To bring it back to Luke Cage, though, the most violent moments and the coldest, sharpest words were delivered by women.

The Get Down also takes place in Harlem, but is centered around music. The main character is a young lyricist who is about to change his life by forming a rap crew, and you'll have to excuse me if that summary is wildly inaccurate. I've seen 2 episodes of the first season, and that's what I've deduced. I like the show for the REALLY good rhymes, the gorgeous actresses and its coherence, which I'd like to expand on.

I barely made it through one episode of Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon), and didn't really like Treme (HBO). Both shows were about the life of musicians, but I think they were written for people who live like that because they were laden with idiosyncrasies that were lost on me. I think the world of musicians has a lot of eccentric people, and the crazy maestro in Mozart was just frustrating to watch. I suffered through 3 hours of Treme because I figured the same writers of The Wire could get me again. I know the marching bands in New Orleans was well-researched and performed, but I couldn't find any semblance of a narrative, and it felt like I was just watching a bunch of people do stuff. I totally missed the point of that show.

The Get Down's narrative is tighter, and has so far focused on 2 main groups of friends. I see their relationships and motivations for what they want to do with their musical talents, and that makes it easier for me to follow, and it doesn't hurt that the actresses are fine as hell.

Last note: I'm glad neither show spends too much time whining about blacks versus whites. Luke Cage has a theme about injustice in general, but the message is more about communities helping themselves instead of pointing the finger. Racism only takes a minor part in the background, but neither show is out to blame white people for black problems, and I think that makes both shows more appealing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Games of 2016: Fall stuff

Mom came to visit!
September 6th marked the end of PAX, and any major time obligation, as I'm taking some time out of the work force for myself. That means a whole lot more gaming! While I spend about 8 hours a day cursing at the screen, I've also had quiet reflection time, reading, and going to the gym 3 days a week. Frugally, I'm doing another freezer/pantry cleanout, and managed to get through 3 weeks of September with only $50 or so spent on groceries, including junk food for hanging out. I think the biggest stress is feeling guilty about all the things I'm not doing while unemployed, like earning money and working on relationships, but ahh well. I'm still keeping away from the slippery slope of graduating laziness, and will get back on financial track.

September's game time was half devoted to Overwatch, and the rest of the time spread out among Lords of the Fallen (free, PS+), Gems of War (free-to-play), Guitar Hero Live ($38 game+guitar bundle on sale), Kill Strain (free-to-play) and some new games Qurare (free-to-play), Furi (free, PS+), and Gone Home (free, PS+).

Overwatch is getting on my nerves. The unlock system is crap, and the ever-persisting problem with competitive games looms. That's right, you win 2 rounds in a best 3 out of 5 game, and one of your team members quits. Everyone's screwed because Blizzard couldn't think of a better way to fix it.

Lords of the Fallen was described to me as Dark Souls Lite. The combat requires some patience - take time to block and dodge as you learn the enemies' attack patterns before going in for the offensive. There's a lot of backtracking, and things have certainly become better after a dozen hours of gameplay.

Ahh yes, Gilgam--hoooly shit!
Qurare is a mobile anime card game that was ported to PS4. The entire game is so poorly explained that I'll have to do my best. After mercifully skipping the dialogue, you first run 2 minute through a hall, picking up stuff to level your character, on your way to a battle. During battles, you have 6 offense/defense/effect cards that you actively manage while the computer controls your actual attacking. I skip the dialogue because it's filled with vapid nonsense. The context is that you're all (crazy hot) librarians that are finding codices (the cards you control) who are all based on literary characters. I'm currently trying to beat Gilgamesh, pictured right, with my half-naked busty mummy pictured below, gothic lolita-style Don Quixote, and young sexy nun-healer, in my deck. We can deduce that a bunch of horny developers made Qurare to be played with no hands. The theme of literary references are cool, but have absolutely no resemblance to their inspiration. By the way, you can get costumes to boost XP, gold and other resources. So, if you swap your tall, leggy, big-breasted scientist-librarian's lab coat and turtle-necked sweater for...a cat get extra resources in battle. I actually feel dumber for playing this game, but the trophies are pretty easy, from what it looks like. This game might win an award for shallowest game I've ever played.
If you level her up, she gets more

Furi is hard as shit, with long segments of story between epic boss battles. You can zip around, slash, shoot and parry, and that's it. The 8 or so fights in the game take 10-20 minutes each, and I've died MANY times. Great art style, though!

Just...searching for notes and looking through drawers, shelves and
behind doors to learn about characters. That's Gone Home.

Gone Home was a 2-hour 100% trophies journey. There are no enemies, and one trophy is to beat the entire game in under 60 seconds. You explore a house and learn about the relationships of the people there. That's it.

As of October, I have finally gotten the last trophy for Gems of War, totally at least 120 hours of gameplay. This might be the best free-to-play game offered on PS4, not counting the monthly PS+ freebies. Also, Kill Strain has gotten an October overhaul: you can join games as a party, now, 2 more characters were unlocked for free, and there are some new animations to flush out the graphics. Guitar Hero has a trophy where you have to login 10 days in a row...took 18 consecutive logins to work for me, but at least it worked.

I hope to be more consistent with blog entries, and have great news that after 6 weeks, I will be joining the workforce again!

At work and in your personal life, how many accounts do you have that require a login?

Dudes. Chicks. Calm that consumer rush. This is a hard one, cause I try harder than the average Joe to be frugal and not financially wast...